THE END of the Phillies' quest for perfection began with a single through the left side of the infield. It was the third inning of a cold April night on which the American flags in centerfield hung steadily in the clutches of a northwesterly wind. Six runs later, Cole Hamels trudged off the mound, part of him disappointed in his inability to get ahead in the count, part of him aware of a pitcher's inability to control what happens once bat meets ball.
Goodbye perfection, goodbye 162-0, hello realities of early spring baseball in the great Northeast.
"I wasn't getting really good control on my fastball, and then everything kind of strayed away from there," Hamels said after the Mets dropped the Phillies to 3-1 with a 7-1 victory at Citizens Bank Park. "I thought I made some really good pitches to a couple of the hitters, but unfortunately they were able to put the bat on the ball and find the hole. That's sometimes the tough part about baseball: You can only affect so much, and try to make the right pitch, but it's got to fall somewhere . . . They found some pretty good holes and were just able to run with it and I wasn't able to minimize the damage."
It was a night built for a lineup like the one the Mets will field this season, with speedy contact hitters Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan wreaking havoc at the top of the order. The temperature at game time was 49 degrees, but by the end of the second inning the conditions were so cold that rightfielder Ben Francisco retreated to the clubhouse to add another layer of Under Armour. Francisco later hit two long fly balls that died in the wind current and petered out at the wall. The Mets, meanwhile, rapped 13 hits, 10 of which were on the ground.
Hamels allowed six runs in 2 innings without allowing an extra-base hit. After opposing starter Chris Young opened the third by pointing a ground ball into leftfield, Reyes dropped a bunt single in front of the mound and things began to unravel. Pagan walked, David Wright hit a liner to leftfield, Scott Hairston walked, and Ike Davis and Brad Emaus hit singles up the middle.
Hamels' night ended after Young's second hit of the inning, an RBI single through the left side of the infield that increased the Mets' lead to 6-0.
"He was upset at himself," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He started going real fast. If you notice, he started going real quick. He was having trouble getting out of the inning and he was getting upset." But the manager shrugged off the inning as one of those that is bound to occur over the course of a season. So did catcher Carlos Ruiz, who noticed Hamels' command starting to stray after Reyes' bunt.
"Right after that, we had some trouble getting the ball down," Ruiz said.
But, Ruiz added, "He'll be OK. It's the first game."
The Phillies had some chances to slug their way back into the game. In the first inning, Jimmy Rollins dropped a two-out bunt single and then stole second base, setting up a monstrous drive by Ryan Howard that landed in the third deck of the rightfield seats. But the ball traveled well to the right of the foul pole, and the slugger later struck out for the first of three times on the night. The fifth inning ended with Howard grounding out with the bases loaded.
For the most part, though, the final six innings involved a series of Phillies relievers getting in their work. Lefty Antonio Bastardo made his first appearance of the season, striking out one in a perfect ninth inning, while Kyle Kendrick pitched 2 scoreless innings in his 2011 debut. Raul Ibanez went 2-for-4 and Wilson Valdez scored the lone run on a double by Placido Polanco in the fifth.
The Mets, meanwhile, improved to 3-1 on the young season, prompting Manuel to offer a warning about the Phillies' supposedly beleaguered National League East rivals.
"I listen to people talk about the Mets," Manuel said. "The Mets have a pretty good lineup, really. They've got some players. I hear people talk about how many games they are going to lose. Let me tell you something: They've got good players. Look at their lineup. They've got some speed. They've got some power. They put together 13 hits tonight. We've got to beat them. We've got to play hard against them. They're more than a second-division team, I'm telling you."
For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at www.philly.com/HighCheese.
Follow him on Twitter at